About me · Norse pagan · odin

A confession, in story form

Once upon a time, there was a woman who pledged herself to Odin. She promised herself to Him for life and beyond, without having any idea what that meant.

She had heard whispers that He was a dark god, a dangerous god, that He would turn her life upside down–and in response to that, she smiled and said “Okay.” She felt that, at the time, her life was long overdue for some radical change.

And besides, she had felt the overwhelming charisma, the heavy presence, the unwavering love of a god who–for the first time in her life–had stepped into her world and truly awakened her spirit. Why would she not follow Him wherever He might lead her?

And for a time–for quite a long time–follow Him she did. She became a champion of her god, a defender, a priestess. She hailed His name and deeds far and wide, and did all that she could–as a relatively young mother, and a recently single one at that–to serve His people in His name.

After years had passed, something within her began to break and crumble, and her faith slowly began to erode away, one tiny fragment at a time. The requests for help that came her way from the people began to feel like an impossible task that she could not possibly fulfill. Worse, she couldn’t stop comparing herself with the other priests and leaders who were also helping the followers of her god. She compared herself and continually found herself lacking. She wondered whether, with all she was continually giving to her god and to His people, there would be anything left of her own self. She wondered whether anything she had to give had been any good in the first place. Why had He ever chosen her, when there were so many other, better people available? But she gritted her teeth, and tried her best to believe, and plowed onward.

At about the same time, when she asked her god to take her deeper into His mysteries, He–as the Wanderer He is–began to show her other traditions, other cultures, other gods He had encountered in His long journeys.  Misunderstanding, she thought He was handing her over to these other gods, abdicating her to these other cultures. Abandoning her.

It was this that finally broke her. She had been an adopted child, abandoned and handed over by her birth mother, and this was the one thing she had begged Him, under any circumstances, not to do.

To protect herself, she began to erect walls against Him. She forgot their history together and focused on the pain, the anger, she was feeling. She cast Him as her enemy, her betrayer. And her heart shattered into a million pieces.

After that, she wandered for a time–a time that was merely a few years but felt like far longer, because she felt she had been cast adrift, without her faith and with only an empty place where it had once lived. And in her anger and her grief, she forgot that this separation was of her own doing. She forgot that, in the countless stories told of her god throughout the ages, this was one of the ways in which He broke his people down before rebuilding them into better, truer, stronger versions of themselves. She forgot that should she ever call out the name of her god and ask Him to return, He would. Because He had promised her so.

And then one day, the longing for her god overflowed to the point where she could no longer contain it, and she did call out. Her anger had diminished, to be replaced with only loneliness and yearning. She couldn’t remember, even, why she had been so angry in the first place. Her resentment and envy of others in her god’s wider human community had also ebbed away into dust. All that was left was the desire to reconnect, to reclaim what she had spent years building with her god and with her community, and to rebuild and continue on her mission as His priestess.

And this is the story of how she came to this day, to this moment, to these words.

Hail to thee, Odin, and hail to thee, people of Odin and people of the Norse gods. As I’m sure readers of these words have realized, I am the woman in this story. My wanderings have changed me, even as Odin’s have changed Him. But I am finally ready to go home, And this only means that I have brought back new knowledge, new experiences, and new gifts to offer to Him and to you–which, of course, is what He intended all along.

To be continued…

About me · administrative · witchcraft · YouTube

Happy New Year!

*dusts off blog, peers at screen warily, grimaces*

Yeah, I’ve been gone for a bit. I’m still around on YouTube (or was, until Jo and I both got sick in the middle of our attempt to do Vlogmas), but I’ve been mostly absent from blogland for a good long while.  I’ve missed everyone, though. I hope the holidays were happy for you, and that you’re starting off 2020 with a song on your lips and a bracing rush of fresh air under your wings.

2019 was a rough year for us–or, well, it had its ups and downs. I had to get a day job in February, and I’ve been working ever since–which has been hard on both my body and my ability to focus on any of my own projects. But on the upside we’ve been living less hand-to-mouth than we used to. We lost Zerk (he of The Strange Tale of Loki’s Cat Children fame) to lymphoma in November, but we also adopted three kittens, one over the summer and two more in November during Zerk’s final weeks. And my daughter got married and is now happily living with her new husband in their very first married apartment together.

So, ups and downs. But if I’m honest, the past few years have been rough on me in general, in ways I’ll probably get into a bit in future posts (and/or videos). The change in title for this blog, as well as the current header image, both reflect my feelings about the past few years rather well. There has been a lot of turmoil and a lot of pain, and my way of coming to terms with that has been to accept and embrace it, to let the waves swallow me up and let the path take me where it will.  Giving up the need to know my destination and control my route in advance, and simply witching as I go along, wherever and however I find myself. There’s a certain freedom in that, and with this surrender has come a couple of opportunities for occult studies in the coming year–one I’ve already begun, and one I’m looking at for further along in the year.

But as the new year begins, I also have some exciting news to share. (Well,  exciting to me, anyway!) Jo and  have decided to start a new Etsy shop/craft business together, as a result of which The Wytch of the North will finally be retired for well and for good.

If you’ve been a customer at The Wytch of the North on Etsy in the past, thank you!!! I love you for helping to nurture my dream.

Yet sometimes dreams die, or get stale, and new ones arise to take their place. Our vision for the new store, Beth and Jo’s Emporium, is a wider one–embracing paganism but not limited by it. I want to explore fabrics I haven’t worked with before, as well as revisiting old favorites in new ways. I want to spin again, and get fiber dye on my fingers! I want to string and knot gemstone beads I’ve blessed with my own hands, and embroider sigils with purring cats by my side. It’s going to be a year of creative play and experimentation, a year of throwing things out there to see what sticks. But I do have some definite product line ideas in mind, and I can’t wait to start creating for you again!

As of right now, there isn’t a whole lot to see at the new place yet, as I’m still in the process of gradually transferring listings over from the old store (along with setting up social media accounts, etc.) But in the meantime, if you visit The Wytch of the North and can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s worth checking over at the Emporium, as the listing may have been transferred. (Of course, soon some brand new items will make their debuts over there, too!)

If you’d like to sign up for the new store’s mailing list to keep posted on what’s going on over there, we’ve got you covered. (And if you sign up, you’ll receive a discount coupon for your first purchase there.)

I’ll talk to you all again soon! And if you like, feel free to hit comment, below, and let me know what’s been going on in your world! (But remember, it may take me up to a day to approve your comment and reply to it, due to my work schedule–apologies for that!)

 

About me · administrative · update

Well, it’s been a while

Yep, I know, I haven’t been around much of late. But I HAVE been pretty busy,

Since we last spoke, back in March or so, the following things have occurred:

  1. I upped my day job hours to 30 per week, which added significantly to my need for down time when I’m not at work. (See: introvert + retail job = not the most ideal situation, even though I mostly like the job.)
  2. The Wytch of the North shop continues to be mostly dead. Which is okay; I have other plans, which I’ll talk more about soon.
  3. I was diagnosed with asthma (which was not an easy diagnosis, as coughing–not gasping or wheezing–is my primary symptom).
  4. I made my first-ever full-sized quilt! As a wedding present for my daughter and her new husband, both of whom loved it! (He is absolutely wonderful, btw, as is his family; I could not possibly approve more.)
  5. We have gotten back into cat rescue, as a result of which we have a new kitten!  His name is Keaghan, and he came from a feral cat colony that lives behind our house. He has spots like a Bengal kitty (he looks like a little snow leopard!), Molly is in love with him (me and Jo too, of course, because kitten) and you can read more about how we got him here.
  6. I flew back east, to Delaware by way of Philadelphia, for my daughter’s wedding! I was away for about a week, which gave me the opportunity to spend time with my daughter and son-in-law, get to know his family a bit, chat with my ex and my stepson, and become convinced that we NEED a flat screen smart TV ASAP. My daughter, Alex, was an absolutely gorgeous bride, and the newlyweds spent two weeks in Japan after the wedding.
  7. I returned from said wedding to find out that I was about to be temporarily laid off from my day job for 3 1/2 weeks, starting last Saturday. (Our building was sold, and the new owners had other plans which required us to be out within 30 days. Unfortunately, our new location won’t be fully available to us until August 1st. Also, packing up a store that has existed at the same location for 20+ years really, really sucks.)
  8. Jo and I have started a podcast!!! It’s called Build Up or Fuck Off, and you can download and listen to episodes here. We’re off to a slow start, due to all of the above life occurrences; however, going forward we are hoping to release about one joint episode per week, plus some solo broadcasts, (We seem to both prefer this format to video; again, see introvert.))
  9. Additionally, I am using my layoff period to (rest my rotator cuff injury and) formulate plans for a new business and blog–about which I’ll have more info for you soon!

I also have some new spiritual life developments to talk about, but I’ll tackle those in a future post (because my Patreon supporters get first dibs.

About me · wytch of the north shop

March Status Update: State of the Beth

I’m pretty sure that in January Etsy changed its algorithms yet again, because prior to that I had been getting a decent amount of organic traffic (including some new customers, at that) in the shop, and after that my traffic and sales died down to a small trickle, and then to virtually nothing. (This is true even with my recent readdition of beaded jewelry into my inventory.) And then, in February, we were informed that our rent would be going up as of March 1. In addition to that, Jo’s mom is having some health issues, so we’ve finally decided we need to get our asses in gear and move back to New England within the next year or two, to be there to support her. But meanwhile, I need to fly back east this summer for my daughter’s wedding. As a result of all this, I decided to try my hand at working a part time job again. My preference is for work from home opportunities, but in desperation I also applied to a couple of local job listings.

What I ended up getting, within about a week of that decision, was a retail sales position in a local (walkable from our house) store. Minimum wage, but with commissions and some other perks that make the job attractive, at least for now. It’s only 13-19 hours per week (on an alternating basis), and the people I work with are mostly okay. The boss seems to like me; I got a key within a month of starting there, which surprised me but also not, because there are only five of us on staff including the owner, and in an emergency I could probably get there the quickest. It’s pretty clear the owner intends to expand my range of responsibilities and rely on me even more down the road.

I don’t hate the job; it’s even enjoyable, on most days. And the money is certainly nice; it isn’t a lot, but enough to be able to shove some into savings while still getting myself some craft supplies and a cheap Walmart wardrobe for work. Enough to keep our heads above water and to be able to keep working towards our goal of moving.

The problem is, like it or not, I’m still disabled. (Though I’m pretty sure I would not qualify for disability benefits, and I certainly can’t afford to meet the financial requirements.) I still have fibromyalgia. I still have IBS-D, although it has been controlled a bit more by my discovery that I need to avoid gluten, and by my doctor’s recent prescription (finally, after all these years!) of meds to address it. Possibly worst of all, I still have arthritis, which (although I’ve tested negative for the rheumatoid version) has gotten considerably worse as I’ve progressed past fifty. A 4-6 hour day spent mostly on my feet leaves me with swollen, throbbing, excruciatingly painful ankles and knees, and the need to spend the following day resting with my feet up and ice on them (which isn’t always possible, because sometimes the following day is also a work day). If I run errands or go grocery shopping after work, make that at least two days of painful recovery time per work day.

So, all of this is why I’ve been quiet recently in all my online spaces–social media, Patreon and my blog. I actually have a lot of things I want to talk about regarding paganism/Witchcraft, the Queens, and even small crafty business…but yeah, recovery time. Also, I want to apologize. I had said I’d be returning to making videos, and I really wanted and intended to do that. But as an introvert, after needing to be “on” at work for 4-6 hours per day dealing with co-workers and customers, I’ve got no more “on” left in me for when I’m not at work. I have a long-term plan to develop a transcription side-gig that will hopefully replace this job in time, so the transition to videos as my primary mode of connecting with you, my peeps, will happen–just maybe not quite yet. In the meantime, I’ll make videos when and as I can, and also continue blogging when I’m able to.

I’m also not getting a lot of crafting done for the shop, which I’m not happy about, but it is what it is. In the meantime though, I continue to plug away at beading when I’m able to, and I have a number of beaded items (necklaces and pagan rosaries, at this point) posted to the shop, with more on the way! I’ve really been enjoying beading once again and intend to keep on doing it from this point on (though I’m going to keep sewing, too); in addition to being fun, it’s relaxing and meditative, and the results make me happy.

20190317_171228

About me · administrative · Patreon

Patreon Tier Changes (plus new Into Video!)

Just a quick heads up to let you all know that, due to the fact that I now have a part-time job to help us be able to pay our bills and work towards getting out of debt, I have eliminated the $20/month tier. I just do not have time (nor can I afford) to send out occasional gifts in the mail anymore. In addition to working part time, I currently don’t have a working printer and have to go to the library to even get shipping labels printed for the occasional customer order that comes in. So this tier is just no longer feasible, and if that’s a deal breaker for you, I’ll understand.

To simplify things, there are now only three tiers:

$1 per month: my earnest thanks, plus early access to public blog posts and videos (I’ve noticed that many creators on Patreon give you zip, zilch, nada for just $1, but I wanted to offer at least something.)

$5 per month: the above, plus access to patron-only photos and videos (yes, I am going back to making videos!), shop coupons, and discounts.

$15 per month: the above, plus the option of a personal three card Tarot reading each month. (Please message me on Patreon by the 15th of each month if you would like to claim your reading for that month. You can also email your request to lauriebethdawe@gmail.com)

Obviously, if you want to pledge more than $15 per month you still can–and you will definitely have my family’s gratitude for your generosity if you do! But these are the tiers, because I need to keep them pretty basic for now.

 

About me

Depth Year Progress: Shit Gets Real

You know how I thought my Depth Year was going to be about going deeper with sewing, embroidery, and Traditional Witchcraft? How I said these would be the only categories in which I would permit myself to buy books or crafting supplies, and that I had no specific plans for a low buy/no buy year in 2019?

Yeah. I really should have known better. I should know by now that when I state definitive intentions such as this, People sit up and take notice. Not only that, but They shift things around to make sure things go in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.

A couple of weeks ago we were notified that our rent will be going up by $75 per month as of March 1st. This might not sound like a lot, but for us it’s pretty disastrous, making the difference between just managing to live within our means, and slipping ever-deeper into debt. And there’s every likelihood that if we stay here in Eugene, in this apartment, the rent will go up yet again, beyond the one grand mark, in 2021.

But even if the rent had NOT gone up, it’s past time we admitted that our household financial situation has become untenable, as my own contribution to it (the store) has mostly dried up (at least in comparison to what it once was). In a way, this rent crisis is a blessing in disguise, as it forces us to come to terms with our financial reality.

With that in mind, plans have been set in motion, including my taking on a couple of new side hustles, completely unrelated to paganism. Neither of these will bring in a whole lot of money, and either of them could end at any time–but my hope is that they will augment my Patreon income, helping to pay down bills and give me some breathing space to figure out what is going on with the store, and what I’m doing next. Because The Wytch of the North Etsy shop is dying (and along with it, my Wytch of the North online identity), or is at least comatose with little hope of resuscitation. Something else is preparing to take its place, but it isn’t ready to be born quite yet. It needs a bit more gestation time, a bit more sunlight and rain. Hopefully the new side hustles can give it that, relieving some of the pressure for it to perform right out of the gate.

I am also making some additional changes to my Depth Year plans, which are now roughly as follows:

  1. No buy/low buy is now a big part of the picture, and to facilitate this we are canceling our subscriptions to Amazon Prime and Scribd (which make it too easy for me to distract myself with new reading material and too easy to decide to buy new things). For reading material, there is always the library, plus the books that are already on my Kindle and our bookshelves; for viewing or listening, there is YouTube, podcasts, and (thanks to our SiL) Netflix.
  2. Even though there are several Tarot decks out there I’d love to have, I won’t be buying any new ones this year (although one that we already supported last year, The Wise Dog Tarot–because how could we not?–will be arriving sometime this summer or fall). I’ll instead be using the ones I already own, working to connect with them on a deeper level to achieve even more profound insights and messages, which in turn creates more value for my reading clients.
  3. Also in line with the no buy/low buy focus, I am concentrating on using up craft supplies I already have in the house before looking to get anything new (regardless of the crafting category things fall into).
  4. Regarding sewing, I’ve decided to focus on repurposing/upcycling rescued fabrics, wherever possible, as opposed to buying new fabrics at the fabric store. This means there will inevitably be a change in the kinds of things I am making to sell, over time. I also think this decision will challenge me to get a lot more creative with my materials and try out some new techniques.
  5. When it comes to other crafting materials, what I mostly have is beads. A LOT of beads. So guess what I’m going to be adding back to the shop? That’s right, beaded stuff! Jewelry and prayer beads were my main product line when my shop was at its most successful, and I think my efforts to try out new crafting mediums have caused me to lose sight of that. It’s time to get back in touch with what’s worked for me in the past and see if I can’t develop my skills in it even further. (I think a lot of my troubles with the store have been the result of a series of bad decisions, and giving up beading was one of them. Also, I sort of miss stringing and knotting beads! It’s quite soothing.)Plus, having the other side hustles gives me some breathing space, so I don’t mind making things, posting them for what I think is a fair price, and then letting them sit in the shop until they eventually sell. (No more gigantic sales, no more continually lowering my prices until I wind up taking a huge loss.)
  6. Spiritually, I’m in sort of a holding pattern, and I’m okay with that. I practice operational witchcraft in my own way (which is a very low-church, organic, intuition-led way), and I’ve decided that I don’t really give a crap whether or not it’s “Traditional” as long as it works for me.  I’m also not really fussing much about the gods in my life, in the sense of what each of Them wants from me or how They fit into my path. I’m still feeling rather salty about the shifting identities and claims of the past few years, and not terribly interested in entertaining spiritual fantasies or what-ifs.My altar (if you can call it that) has been stripped down, and is now aniconic–featuring crystals, a deer skull, candle holders, and a round loom (symbolizing that my path has no beginning and no end, and that it is mine to weave as I will), but no specific humanoid imagery–with the exception of a plaque of a nude woman in the embrace of a serpent. To my mind the woman is probably Lilith (or maybe Eve).

    Meanwhile, I read my cards, walk the land with my dog, watch the skies and the birds, and follow the wind in the trees. I listen to what the spirits whisper, I ward and I wait, and I do my work. My fingers are seldom idle; there is always this to make, or that to write down. And beyond that, I don’t think I’ll have much time for the rest of it for the remainder of this year, at least. I’m comfortable just waiting and working on other things, focusing on paying down the bills, crafting, and making space. What will come to fill the space? I figure I’ll never know if I don’t just let it be.

 

About me

Depth Year Progress: Confronting Fears

Most of us know, on some level, what it is we fear, even if some of those fears are not consciously acknowledged. What most of us don’t know is how to keep our fears from controlling us, to stop them from keeping us stuck, from getting whatever it is we want in life.

In undertaking this depth year, even in the somewhat modified way I’m doing it, I knew I’d have to confront some of my fears–and oh boy, here they are. As usual, in my case they often mask themselves as depression and a tendency to trap myself in a cycle of inertia–contributed to, but not entirely the fault of, my chronic illnesses. Yes, I have fibro and IBS, but if I allow myself to indulge in behavior that makes my symptoms worse, instead of improving them, I have a convenient excuse for not getting shit done. And I can’t really blame myself for it, because I’m sick, right? This pattern feeds into a self-perpetuating cycle of self-sabotage–lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m no psychologist, but in my entirely amateur opinion we get caught up in these types of cycles because–as unpleasant and frustrating as they may be–they keep us from having to look at something worse. In getting trapped in a self-defeating pattern, I’m avoiding having to look at a fear.

So, what are my fears? Since my depth year is supposed to be focusing on my creativity and crafting (in addition to my spiritual practice), we’ll start with my fears regarding that.

Lucifer said to me today: “You want to know who I am? Ask Me. Not books, or somebody’s course, or YouTube. ME. You want to know who YOU are? Ask yourself.”

This is very far from being an easy question to answer. Even asking it makes me want to squirm and run away. But if answering this question isn’t the work of a Witch, what is?

My greatest fear about myself, particularly in regard to Making, is that I’m a dilletante, a tinkerer, a perpetual amateur. It’s that, concerning absolutely everything except possibly writing (which I’ve done for as long as I can remember, since early childhood), I’ve started too late in life to truly become a professional, to become the artist I yearn to be. Oh sure, I’ve dabbled in various art forms since childhood as well; my father was an artist, so I grew up with it. I’m decent (not extraordinary, but moderately skilled) at drawing, painting, and sculpting. But my fear is that I’m more like my mother (who started making painfully amateurish greeting cards and jewelry late in life, while her real talents lay in accounting and management) than my brilliant but unstable father, who died of cancer when I was almost 13. And I don’t even have the accounting and management skills to compensate!

I feel like I wander from one thing to another, unable to commit to anything, because I’m afraid, deep down, that if I commit myself fully and am STILL not good enough, it will prove that I’m a failure. Whereas if I only dabble, I can be “good enough” at a whole bunch of things, but true mastery won’t ever be expected of me.

With this in mind (and also with some financial considerations taken into account–such as, even though I’ve racked up a pretty good amount of experience making jewelry, I can’t afford the supplies for that craft right now), I’ve recently tried to narrow my artistic focus down to sewing and embroidery. I’m very new to embroidery–six months or so at this point–and some of my stitching still makes me wince. (It will probably be a while before that isn’t true.) I’ve been sewing, off and on, since my daughter was little, and my first attempts at sewing professionally occurred about ten years ago, when we had first moved to Eugene and I decided I wanted to make deity dolls. (Kudos to you if you’ve been around long enough to remember that!) This year I’ve decided I want to start making dolls again (and throw pillows, and other snuggly, scrappy things). Still, I feel like a beginner, and in some ways I am. And at 53 with chronic illnesses, I fear that I won’t have the time or energy to push past the beginner stage and achieve what I would like to do creatively. I fear that I’ll be trapped in mediocrity for the rest of my life. I fear that I’m still missing something, somehow, something that I should REALLY be focusing on instead, that in my insistence on doing the things I’m doing now, I’m overlooking my true Work. And worst of all, I fear that I’ll die before ever knowing that that true Work might be. (And beyond even that, I fear that there might not be a true Work for me to discover–because if there were, wouldn’t I have found it by now? Maybe being a dilletante is all there is for me.)

Some of these fears seem like obvious bids to keep myself trapped in the cycle of flitting from one thing to another without ever settling. Some of them feel darker than that, like they might have the ring of truth. Comparison is an evil bitch, and with so many creative people out there realizing their dreams–more and more of them every day, seemingly–how hard is it to avoid judging oneself unfavorably (even though a closer look may reveal resources and opportunities others have that are beyond my reach)? And how easy is it to decide that, since you’ll never be quite good enough there’s no point in running yourself ragged trying to be?

It’s a thorny tangle, to be sure. I think what it all boils down to is that even if there isn’t a Work I’m precisely supposed to be doing–even if my destiny is not quite that grand or that dramatic–there is a Work I want to be doing, and it lies somewhere in the middle of that tangle (and will require me to bleed a little in reaching in to drag it out).  It isn’t necessarily divorced from any of the skills or crafts I’m pursuing right now, but it takes them to a new level I haven’t quite reached yet. It takes them out of the realm of things anyone (with a moderate amount of practice and skill) could do and into the realm of what only I (not necessarily with extraordinary skill, but with my unique perspective and viewpoint) can do.

And I think it’s the work of this year to pursue that, identify it, and  begin to manifest it.

 

About me · Traditional Witchcraft · witchcraft

Traditional Witchcraft versus…Traditional Witchcraft

I began 2019–which I had designated as my Depth Year–with a few different intentions, one of which was to really immerse myself into “Traditional Witchcraft.” The trouble is that I apparently wasn’t quite sure what I meant by that.

Accordingly, I started out this month by reading two books, both of which purport to be about “Traditional Witchcraft”: Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape by Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire, and Weave the Liminal: Living Modern Traditional Witchcraft, by Laura Tempest Zakroff. Transparency disclosure: I haven’t finished reading both books in their entirety yet, but I’ve read and skimmed enough to have a pretty good idea of how their approaches differ, and what each one has to offer me (and potentially others, too).

The thing is, these two books–which came out at close to the same time (though from different publishers)–are VERY different, so I thought it might be useful to do a sort of comparison post, and along the way mention the conclusions I’ve reached from both in terms of my own path. I’m going to start off by saying that if you’re a new Witch (or even if you’re considerably further along, like me) you’re going to want both books, because they each have something distinct to offer. If nothing else, they will both get you thinking.

First, Besom, Stang and Sword: this is a very accessible yet classical approach to Trad Craft as it was practiced historically (at least, in terms of what’s been reconstructed from the European witch trials, and what’s been cobbled together from that information and from folklore and various other sources for modern traditions by people like Robert Cochrane), complete with a discussion of the Devil and His role in modern Craft, the Witches’ Sabbat, the poison path, working with the dead, and astral travel/soul flight. If you like the works of Gemma Gary, you will be over the moon about this book, because it covers similar material while being (frankly) more readable and user-friendly for the average person. The basic ritual approach and format of Trad Craft in general and the authors’ Black Tree Tradition in particular are covered (including altar set-up, assignment of the directions and elements, and laying the compass, along with a quick crossroads rite for when you don’t feel like doing all of that) in a clear and readable manner, as well as a discussion of the classic Witch tools (besom, stang, sword, and cauldron, etc.), a smattering of incense recipes and hoodoo-style spells, and a decent number of exercises (many of which will be especially helpful for people who have difficulty attaining trance states). What I found most fascinating about this book is the way the authors lay out the details of the specific tradition they have founded and their own practice, including their approach to using local legends as a means of connecting with the land spirits specific to your geographical region. I should add that this is a completely non-religious approach to Craft; the Witch Lord and Witch Queen discussed by the authors are designated as spirits (and/or possibly archetypes) rather than deities, which is an approach I’m sure many people will find appealing.

Initially, I was planning to do some of the rituals laid out by the authors, in addition to working through some of their exercises aimed at helping you understand and integrate their system, but 1) I hate scripted ritual and never do well with it; for me, having scripted words to say (and/or choreographed actions to perform) always detracts from actually doing the ritual, ie making the connections and accomplishing the intended goals, 2) after more than fifteen years of heathenry, I think I’ve finally had enough of trying to fit myself into someone else’s tradition, and 3) I ended up deciding I don’t need to understand more about their system, I need to understand more about my own, instead. However, this book did inspire me to renew my work with some of the traditional Witch tools and give those tools more attention and more love in my practice (with, thus far, VERY effective results).  I’m also planning to work with some of the types of magick the authors suggest for each month of the lunar calendar during the year ahead.

Weave the Liminal is a very different kettle of fish, indeed. Although it describes itself as a book on “modern traditional witchcraft,” the whiff of sulfur and aura of forbidden knowledge that is ever-present in Besom, Stang & Sword is decidedly missing. Instead, the author challenges the reader to forge their OWN individualistic path using her RITES (Roots, Inspiration, Time, Environment, Star) breakdown as a guideline. This system dares the reader to dig deep into their own calling towards the Craft, as influenced by the draw of both blood and spirit, where in the world they live, the demands placed on them by mundane life, any special talents they may have, and above all the guidance of their own divine spirit–combining all of these elements to work out a living practice that fulfills their spiritual needs and aspirations, is tailored to their geographic location, and will work within their time constraints. Beyond this point in the book, the author delves into a lot of beginner-friendly topics such as how magick works, how to construct your own spells and rituals, learning to trust yourself and overcoming the fear of “doing it wrong,” the realization that magickal tools don’t need to be limited to the “classical Witch tools” but can also include anything you actually use in your own individual practice (such as a special pen if you are an artist, or a laptop for writers), getting the most out of community without letting it drive you insane, working with the dead, other miscellaneous spirits, and familiars, and arriving at your own understanding of the nature of the gods, in addition to a sharp contrast she draws between worship/devotion and “working with the gods” in order to accomplish mutual goals (in a manner which is always secondary to working with the divine within your own self).

Reading carefully (and occasionally between the lines, because if there is indeed an affiliation here she does not outright advertise it as such in the text) I sussed out that the “modern traditional witchcraft” Zakroff is referring to in the book’s title is most likely the Feri Tradition, which is a uniquely American-born tradition (and thus DOES qualify as Trad Craft, even though it differs markedly from classical or Sabbatic Craft). I’ve felt drawn toward exploring some of the unique practices of this tradition (such as three-soul alignment) for some time now, and the book handily reminded me of that. I also plan to return to her RITES guidelines whenever I start to feel murky about my own path again and need a refresher course in defining who, what, and why I am as a Witch. (For fans of journaling, there is a LOT of fodder for that here!)

I had a couple of huge takeaways from this book, the first of which is the reminder that I, myself, am a sovereign divine being/deity in training. This is a concept Odin introduced me to years ago, and that Lucifer is not exactly averse to, either (to say the least). This book has served to remind me that my primary focus should be, and needs to be, on walking my OWN path rather than that of this deity or that one, and honoring and conversing with the divine within ME before seeking it outside myself. Because, to paraphrase Dorothy: “If I can’t find it in my own backyard, it never really existed in the first place.” The divinity that lives within me is the core, the reason, and the center of my own spiritual life and practice, and my responsibility and fealty is to that divinity above all others.

As January draws to a close, THIS realization is already emerging as the raison d’etre and deepest lesson of my depth year.

Weaving the Liminal has also made it clear to me that, however much I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences with flying to the Witches’ Sabbat (with associated shenanigans and hijinks in the woods at night), hedge witchery, the poison path, and astral travel, none of these are things I really want to be doing in my own practice; in fact, been there, done that, didn’t care for it. Odin’s emphasis on these themes (especially astral travel, which I find draining as well as acutely uncomfortable) was part of what drove a wedge between us, and my assumption that Lucifer would be equally invested in my doing them (I was mistaken in this) has kept my forward progress with Him on hold for too long.

Instead, in common with Zakroff, most of MY witchcraft requires me to remain firmly planted IN my body, because I am first and foremost a Maker. She talks about not needing ritual or astral travel to talk to gods and spirits, and this is also a hallmark of my own practice; such things have always come so easily to me that I question them, thinking I must not be doing it right (even as my gut tells me I AM, and mundane world experience, as well as the perceptions of other sensitive people, usually confirms this). Zakroff relates that most of the time she can just be writing or creating artwork and she will receive downloads, seamlessly and effortlessly woven in with her everyday life, and I’m reading this and going “Grrrrrl! That’s exactly how it works for me, too!”

And then, to my surprise, she revealed that this is how it works for MOST of the artistic witches she knows, because artists (and creative writers) have been training ourselves to slip into that liminal state–that light trance of receptive and inspired creative absorption that is the heartbeat of witchcraft–for our entire lives. It’s seamless and integrative, but not–as she points out–particularly Sabbatic or ecstatic. It seems less glamorous for all that, because it requires you to remain in firm control of your body and senses–and yet it is also when I am most in touch with, and at one with, my divine self. Zakroff names this state “Immediate Witchcraft” and says that it is “achieved mainly through years of nonspecific training that builds trust with yourself”–which is exactly what my roughly 40 years of wandering in and out of the Craft, book learned and spirit taught, alongside writing and creating at the same time, have amounted to. It’s more than a little annoying to realize how much I’ve undervalued my achievements and experience up until now, but SO gratifying to finally have some external validation for them, as well as a name and definition to put to them.

So, in closing, I recommend buying (or borrowing) both books, because your takeaways may be different from mine–and even if they’re similar, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something of value in both of them. I hope this has been helpful, and please let me know if there are any other pagan/witchy books you’d like to see me review!